Archive for Thursday, June 29, 2006

Column: ESPN drifting to bad future

June 29, 2006

As I search the Internet furiously trying to find an idea for a sports column, I head to the source of sports around the world, ESPN.

Then I began looking around espn.com for ideas on what to write about. I see the main articles about baseball, soccer and the pro basketball draft. But none of those topics jumped at me, so I kept searching the Web page.

I began to scroll down the page looking for other sports and that's when the light bulb turned on in my head.

In recent years, ESPN has been broadcasting too many leisure activities that are getting confused with sports. It struck me that ESPN is slowly becoming the next MTV.

If you haven't noticed, the Music Television station doesn't play music anymore. Instead, MTV airs stupid reality shows, teen shows and worthless dating shows.

Whatever happened to showing music videos or unplugged concerts? You will only catch videos on MTV after 2 a.m., unless you count those 30-second clips on Total Request Live a music video.

At least Beavis and Butthead would show music videos in the middle of the outrageous, but funny cartoon.

What I am trying to get at here is that MTV has gone away from what made it popular more than 20 years ago. ESPN is headed down that same fateful path.

In the beginning, ESPN became popular by airing the National Football League draft, Sportscenter and other major sports that weren't on the basic channels.

But now when you turn on ESPN, you might catch poker, paint ball games, the spelling bee or worst of all, their terrible made for TV movies.

I am sick of seeing this garbage on ESPN, because it is the main channel I watch. I don't watch much TV, but I used to be able to rely on it for good programming. Now I turn it on and wonder how half of the stuff it shows can even be considered a sport.

I know my opinion of what defines a sport may be different than many people, so I won't get into that now. I will save that topic for another time, when I feel like making a few people mad at me. I actually might make a lot of people angry at me, but it's just my worthless opinion.

Back to ESPN and it's declining programming. If you watch any of its channels, I am sure you have noticed the influx of poker shows in the last two or three years.

I began playing poker in high school and even played Texas Hold-em before it was popular on TV. All I can say is enough is enough already. Playing poker and watching on TV are two vastly different things.

You can't learn anything on TV, because you can see your opponent's cards. Unfortunately, that is not the case at the casinos; otherwise I would be a millionaire.

ESPN also airs such quality programming as paint ball tournaments and the National Spelling Bee. The paintball is boring and hard to follow, but I have no problem with the spelling bee.

At least I would have no problem if it were on any other network. I would like to hear someone try to explain how the spelling bee can even be considered a sport, hence its spot on ESPN.

Last, but definitely not least, are they horrific made-for-TV movies that ESPN has created. If you have ever sat down to watch one of these, because the subject interested you, then you know what I mean.

It all started with "A Season on the Brink," the story about legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight's 1986 season with the University of Indiana. The idea wasn't bad, but the movie consisted of actor Brian Dennehy yelling and cursing the entire time.

I have seen enough highlights to know that Knight has done plenty of both, but the movie never touched on what makes him a good coach. It was a downright awful movie. Yet ESPN didn't stop there.

Instead of making only one bad one, the network proceeded to make one about Dale Earnhardt, Bear Bryant's first summer at Texas A&M and a couple others.

I only watched parts of the others, because the first one was bad enough. But I did talk to people who watched them and I'll just say the reviews weren't rave.

These movies are only part of the problem, but I am afraid ESPN is heading down a path that follows MTV. I hate to see a sports network not airing sports; it doesn't make sense. I would rather watch replays of great games or players, than watch the hours of garbage that it show instead.

Hopefully, the executives at the network realize what happened to MTV and listen to many people's advice. They need to return to what made them famous in the beginning, which was simple.

Sports.

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